Every now and then there’s a viral stunt that grips the nation.  The ALS bucket challenge was one of those back in the summer of 2011 pulling in 100 million dollars in donations between July 29th and August 27th.  This was a massive increase compared to 2010 when donations reached only $2.7 million.

Crowd-based business models and marketing are far from new. DIY Marketers have been firm believers in the power of brain and viral science from the very beginning. The ice bucket challenge has been a superb example of these sciences at work. Not only that, you can gather some pretty creative marketing ideas from watching this viral campaign in action.

What Makes Things Go Viral

From the outside, the challenge looks like just another entertaining gimmick for raising money, but the truth is there is a lot of thinking behind it. The principle backing its success is simple: making something public and visible can make it go viral.

Interestingly, there’s an entire book dedicated to this subject. It’s called Contagious: Why Things Catch On, and it’s all about how to make your big ideas become incredibly infectious. This hardcover is a New York Times bestseller, by the way.

Visibility is key to executing successful marketing campaigns that build your brand. It doesn’t matter what media type you choose, from the written word to the video, it will flop if nobody can see it. Non-profit causes and charities are typically invisible.

For example, at least once a year you’ll checkout at the grocery store and be asked to donate to a cause. Once you clear the checkout line, that’s it, you don’t see or hear about it again. Chances are you dismissed the request because you didn’t know much about the cause it wasn’t visible. You did not see any benefit or value in donating.

In contrast, the ALS ice bucket challenge has made their cause profoundly visible. It has taken YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook by storm. In just two months, the ALS Association has recorded a whopping 3 million donors. Impressive, right?

How to Become Visible

What kind of creative marketing ideas can you employ to gain visibility and all-important audience participation? We have a 3-step plan. Here’s your step-by-step guide to infecting the Internet with a healthy and welcome virus that leads back to your business:

Step 1: Think Outside the Box

You have to have a big idea. You need to define it, determine its scope, and evaluate whether it has the potential to fly. Thinking outside the box means cultivating a fresh perspective. It’s the 21st century. Most ideas have been tested and tried, but how you approach and present them will make you unique. Your goal is to find your voice.

SNEAK TIP: Here are a some of the best books on creativity?that are on my shelf that get me thinking creatively.

Marketing Outrageously by John Spoelstra

Whack-on-the-Side-of-the-Head by Roger Van Oech

Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko

Attention: This Book Will Make You Money by Jim Kukral

Step 2: Tailor to Your Audience

Think about the specific individuals who comprise your audience and figure out how to tailor your message and content to them. If you get this part right, people will inevitably ask questions and participate. Also, your audience will keep growing, which is what you want. Here are five simple ways to make your product, service, or cause visible:

  • Create a video or podcast. Make it lively. Inject some fun and entertainment. Keep it relatively brief. The on-the-go individual will eat it up. ThinkALS ice bucket challenge something folks can physically engage in.

Here are some free podcast recording software and video recording tools you can use to get started

    • Audacity: It’s not pretty but it’s FREE and the standard for lots of web podcasters. The editing tools are intuitive and the quality of recordings is excellent.
    • GarageBand: If you’re a Mac user, then you already have Garageband installed – so that counts as free. It’s not just for musicians – it’s a great podcasting tool too.
    • Sony Acid Xpress: This one is for you, PC users. Very similar to GarageBand and also free.
    • Jing: This is an awesome toll for very short video screencaptures of less than five minutes, there is a low-cost upgrade for longer screencaptures as well.
  • Engage via social media. We love our social media. Strike up conversations and point them toward your product, service, or cause as a solution to a common industry problem. Here’s the perk: PCWorld points out that social media profiles are free and indexed by Google, therefore perfect for visibility.

SNEAKY TIP:? Here are a few social media tools I use to make my social media look fresh and engaging without sucking a ton of time.

    • Nimble: If you get the bulk of your new relationships online via Twitter or LinkedIn or Google+, then you MUST use Nimble to keep track of these relationships and turn them into customers or new opportunities for your business. If you don’t have a lot of contacts, you can use it for free. But I really recommend the full version at just $14 per month, it’s an online social CRM that can’t be beat. It also connects with HootSuite and allows you to schedule social media posts.
    • Keep ongoing research of people to follow on all platforms. If you have a virtual assistant, this is an idea assignment. Then create lists in Twitter or Circles in Google Plus with these folks and start using your Nimble to chat them up.
    • Don’t let Google Plus slip by you. The time to get on this platform and learn it is now. Play around with Hangouts just for fun. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Make it easy to share. Visibility connects very closely to user ease of access. Convenience is everything these days. If you make your product, service, or cause super easy to share, people will share it. Watch visibility soar.

SNEAKY TIP: Here are just a few ways to make things easy to share:

    • Develop a list of your own “insiders”. In other words, form cross-promotional relationships with people and help each other promote your posts and events.
    • Create and give your insiders pre-make marketing messages and packets that only take a click or cut and paste to implement.
  • Connect emotionally. Why do people share content? Because they relate to it personally and feel compelled to pass it on. Moving your audience emotionally is a huge part of going viral. Know what makes your prospects tick.
  • Share a story. One of the best ways to move an audience is to share a good story. Give them a taste of your values and principles. Show them the humanity behind the logo. Our brains are more engaged by storytelling than by facts.


Step 3: Monitor the Response

As you tailor your ideas in visible media to your audience, be sure to monitor the response closely. Watch your web traffic, record any spikes in click-through and conversion rates, and see how far your message extends. Then, get even more creative by using this valuable information to brainstorm your next big idea!

So there you have it three easy ways to model the ALS ice bucket challenge to build an audience, make your content go viral, and build your brand. Get busy!

Do you have an effective viral marketing strategy? How do you get your content and business in front of the buying masses?